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Opera Software (formerly owned by a Norwegian company and now owned by a consortium of Chinese companies) has revealed that during their few months’ beta stage run in Kenya; they have loaned out a total of $1 million (Ksh. 100 million) to Kenyans through their loan app OKash.

OKash, which was formerly running in beta but now it is in stable, is a byproduct of Opera’s FinTech product Opay; an e-wallet and merchant payment system running on mobile. More details on OPay at this link.

The OKash app now boasts of over 20,000 downloads from Google Play Store. Unlike most other loan apps in the market, this app is minimalistic in design. The APK is about 3 MB, and when installed it takes up about 7 MB space in your local storage.

Opera, famed for their Opera Mini browser that uses industry-leading mobile browsing compression technology, seems to be living up to its reputation of using as much resources on the user’s device as possible while giving the most productive experience possible.

Currently, OKash comes as a standalone app separate from OPay. However, in the near future when OPay rolls out in stable, OKash will be accessible within the app. Though the two apps serve two different purposes, OPay is a mobile e-wallet and merchant payment system, while OKash is a mobile loan app.

Why does OKash require too many details upon user registration?

opera opay okashUsers who have installed OKash are complaining of having to fill out too many details during the registration. Well, Eddie Ndichu, the Managing Director of Opera Software FinTech solutions across Africa, says the details help them accurately determine the user’s ability to repay the loan.

Ndichu says no two users of the loan app get the same loan limit or repayment terms. Based on what each user filled under prompts such as their level of education, marital status, other outstanding loans, residential details, employment status, and referee details. The loan app will then better-set limits for each user and their repayment period.

For instance, users who are working on contract or are traders, get their repayment period reduced from the default 30-days to 14-days. Ndichu says the information they collect during the one-time registration help them curate customized loans for each user.

He further mentions that the app gets weekly updated reflecting user’s feedback and what it learns about the customer on an ongoing basis. Take, for instance, when a user inputs a particular referee’s number, OKash will then dig into its database and check if the referee has also downloaded OKash, how much they borrowed, and what’s their repayment record. If the referee does not look like a bad debt risk, then the customer using that particular referee will get higher loan limits with better repayment period.

Currently, the lowest loan limit is set at $15 (Ksh. 1,500), and Ndichu says the company resolved to set that limit as anything below that would not be feasible.

Why only M-Pesa customers?

OKash is currently only available to subscribers of Safaricom M-Pesa services. Ndichu argues that the dynamics of the industry has forced the market to deploy services based on where the mobile money numbers are, and that will be Safaricom’s M-Pesa.

He, however, says they are working to bring in other mobile money platforms and possibly banks into the platform. That way, users will have more choice as to which platform they want to send/receive money from their OKash accounts, other than using their M-Pesa wallet.

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